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Tax exemptions for veterans at issue as Hamburg School Board plans decision in the fall

Combat veterans in the Hamburg Central School District could save $500 or more each year on school taxes if the School Board grants exemptions for them.

Board members said they will decide this fall on the exemptions, but several residents wanted to know why the board did not implement the exemption in the spring.

“Last year, we spent probably over $100,000 fighting a legal battle, and then we turned around and bought off the superintendent of the schools with a severance package, and a walk away check,” said Raul Mercado, a veteran who said he is 100 percent disabled.

“We had that money to blow on all of that going on, but we didn’t have time to settle an issue for all your disabled veterans.”

The board discussed the exemption in March, but even if approval had been given then, it would not have gone into effect until next year.

There are 1,334 veterans in the district already receiving the Alternative Veterans Exemption on town and county taxes, said Nancy M. DiLonardo, deputy director of Erie County real property tax services.

All of them would automatically receive the exemption, she said. There are 248 others who have received the pro rata exemption and would have to apply for the school tax exemption.

There are various levels of exemption. The county offers 15 percent off the assessment for noncombat veterans and another 10 percent for combat veterans, and up to 50 percent for disabled veterans.

If the district went with the same level of exemption the county offers, there could be a shift of $26 million from veterans to other taxpayers, she said.

If the district adopts the same level as the county uses, a combat veteran’s tax bill on property assessed for $100,000 would be $3,202, an estimated savings of $552, DiLonardo said.

A taxpayer without the exemption would pay $3,828, a $73 dollar increase. A lower exemption would save combat veterans $180, while nonveterans would pay an extra $26.

The board plans to hold another hearing in October, followed by a vote sometime afterward.